U2 Elevation Tour
Elevation Tour 3rd leg: North America
: Joyce Center - South Bend, Indiana, USA
Rockin' big setupLaureen Fagan (published on 2001-10-10)
Source: South Bend Tribune
U2 crew, locals set the stage for tonight's show
By LAUREEN FAGAN
Tribune Staff Writer
You're going to the show tonight to see
Bono and The Edge, Larry and Adam -- the U2 that you know.
But you don't know Scratch.
You also don't know Rocko and Jake, Brian and Vivian, Dallas and Flory. They're members of the U2 rock band's road crew -- and a few local hands -- who transformed the Joyce Center into the heart-shaped world of the "Elevation" tour kicking off at the University of Notre Dame.
It's a job that took more than 12 hours as nearly 100 people unloaded 18 trucks, trucks containing 360 tons of trusses and cables, spotlights and speakers, and began to set up.
"This is the modern-day circus," said Alan Escombe of London, whose Rock-It Cargo company is responsible for shipping the band around the world.
"It's a complete little village."
When Escombe's job was done, the others had just begun -- at 8 a.m. Sunday -- to assemble the jigsaw-puzzle pieces of the show.
Their portable radios crackle as crew members coordinate between the parking lot and the arena, where chalk circles and arrows on the Joyce floor designate where equipment will be placed.
"There's five containers on the upstaging truck. Have they left yet?" asks a fuzzy radio voice.
"No, not yet," comes the reply.
Parts of the puzzle are what you might expect. You'll find costumes in the first-floor women's room that's been converted into wardrobe. And 36 of The Edge's guitars are here -- about 15 of which he'll use onstage, according to Dallas Schoo, The Edge's guitar technician.
But other pieces go unnoticed.
In one corner, Vivian Lee of South Bend deftly twists together 400 bolts used to suspend the trusses that support lights and other equipment.
In another corner, U2's Adam Finer can't even hazard a guess at how much tape he uses to connect and label stage lights.
In the hall, U2 technician Brian Beasley is feeding film into a large-format projector that splashes the special-effects designs over the audience as they watch the show.
And then there's Scratch. "Just call me Scratch," he says.
Among other things, he's checking wires on spotlights that would soon fly above his head.
Meanwhile, the high riggers who hang the chain cables to suspend the lights are doing their own version of the "Elevation" tour -- in the rented cherry-pickers that stretch to the top of the Joyce's 72-foot-high ceiling.
"It's not progressing as fast as I'd hoped," says U2 head rigger Bart Durbin at noon. Normally, the band plays venues large enough to accommodate all of the work at the same time, and the crew can set up in six hours and load out in three.
But the Joyce, with a floor that's only 148 feet long and 120 feet wide, presents a load-in challenge.
"We can't do the normal process, can't put all the pieces on the length of the floor, so we have to do it one department at a time," says U2 stage manager Rocko Reedy, who jokes that his job consists of "directing traffic and yelling at people."
"Nobody loves loadin' it in, but this is a great place to see a show," he says. It's also a great place for U2 to play, he adds.
"There's the Irish connection, and we wanted to start, not in Madison Square Garden or Chicago or L.A., but where we can be the U2 that you used to see playing in a club," he says. "When we play those large venues, they may be standing 70 feet away from each other. It's not the same vibe that you used to see."
That makes the difficulty worth it for U2 carpenter Flory Turner. "It's gonna look good because it's gonna be a real intimate show," she says.
And by 6 p.m. -- when the trusses were up, the sound system and videoscreens mounted, and the stage began to take shape -- she was right.
It did start to look good.
Some crews began to build the "underworld" below the stage, where sound technicians will work.
Others built the red, heart-shaped stage and the walkways Bono uses, while another set up drums. As they worked, the crew's sense of teamwork was evident, and they greeted each other like family.
Sunday was the first time they'd seen each other in the month that U2 was off the road. Like any family, they chatted about their wives, their kids, their bicycling trips while on break. But occasionally the tension would mount, and -- again, like any other family -- they'd exchange heated remarks.
"Don't worry about it," one would yell. "I have to worry about it, they told me to worry about it," another would answer. "Well, then worry about it. Just don't worry me about it!" would come the retort.
That's the kind of minor tension that tour production manager Jake Berry has learned to take in stride.
"It's a little slow because of the venue," said Berry, who spent the entire day in motion. "But otherwise, it's a pretty normal day."
By 8 p.m., much of the work was done. Berry leaned against a wall as Steve Iredale -- his Irish counterpart and the U2 production manager for the last two decades -- wandered by.
What did he think?
A weary-looking Iredale smiled.
"Just another rock show," he said.
Often plagiarised, never matched.